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‘Clean Slate’ becomes reality in Pennsylvania

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Aug 6, 2019 - 1:29:57 PM

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One year after Pennsylvania became the first in the nation to pass a clean slate legislation, the state began automatically sealing certain minor nonviolent misdemeanor records for people who stay crime-free for 10 years, and with arrest records that never led to conviction, without a waiting period.


“Today represents the culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work and collaboration between Representative Sheryl Delozier, me and countless other legislators and advocates who are looking to help those who have paid their debt to society truly get their second chance,” explained Pennsylvania State Rep. Jordan Harris, a Democrat at a press conference June 28, the day the legislation passed. Rep. Delozier is a Republican.

“This first-of-its-kind legislation put Pennsylvania on the map as a national leader in positive criminal justice reform and shows that we’re serious about the benefits criminal justice reform has for all taxpayers,” added Rep. Harris.

“Clean Slate helps people who have paid their debt to society to find housing and work without being affected by a decades-old infraction,” Rep. Delozier said. “This program gives people a second chance. It helps them move on with their lives if they have not had further police interaction.”

The state expects to automatically seal up to 30 million low-level criminal records by 2020. Since the Clean Slate Act was signed into law last June, those who qualified for criminal record sealing had to file a petition with the court system to have their record sealed.

“One of the most exciting aspects of today is that we’re not done,” Rep. Harris added. “I’m honored to continue working with Representative Delozier and bipartisan advocates on probation and parole reform as well as occupational licensure reform. The appetite is there to help Pennsylvanians who have paid their debt to society get the opportunities they need to contribute positively to their community and support their family.”   

Philadelphia NAACP President Rodney Muhammad told The Final Call newspaper, “We want people to get a second chance.  Too often they don’t get that unless their slate is wiped clean.  So many offenders have low level infractions and nonviolent crimes. However, they are incarcerated like they are violent offenders.   We feel pretty good about the Clean Slate Bill and are happy to see it mushrooming into a national issue.” He also serves as the local student minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 12 in Philadelphia.

The Clean Slate Bill is for people like Keith whose story is highlighted on

When Keith was 18 and a senior in high school, he got into a bit of trouble. He worked at a theme park and received complimentary tickets as part of his pay. Like many of his colleagues, Keith sold those tickets to get some extra cash.

Keith was caught and convicted of misdemeanor theft. That same year, he was arrested for DUI after going to a high school party. Both of his convictions have haunted him ever since, and after 10 years they are still affecting his ability to find jobs and support his wife and children.

With Clean Slate, both of Keith’s convictions will be sealed by automation, without him filing a petition or paying any fees.

“Having my record sealed, that means everything. It will give me all the confidence in the world. It means I don’t have to worry about paying my bills,” he explained.

According to the Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, the facts for people in Pennsylvania are as follows:

 Nearly one in three—or three million people have a criminal record.

Many have only minor convictions, while others have been arrested but never even convicted of a crime. 

Because of the rise of technology and background-checking, even a minor record can now cause lifelong barriers to opportunity. 

Records negatively impact individuals, families, communities, and the economy.

Criminal records are also a major cause of poverty.

Gregory Muhammad, Nation of Islam Delaware Valley Regional Prison Reform student minister, sees the Clean Slate Bill as a good start.  “More discussion is needed on those who have felonies and have turned their lives around.  A clean slate for everyone is my position,” he added.

“Those that have been incarcerated 20-35 years are starting to come home.  There is a greater need to look at their records now.”